The Proverbial Bigoted Relative on Facebook

Facebook has been described as a tool for finding out which of your relatives are bigots. It’s not inaccurate, though I think most of us can guess even without Facebook. At least, I’m never hugely surprised by who posts which forms of bigotry in response to which news stories, mostly because I’ve seen them skirt the line before, or it’s consistent with attitudes they’ve shown in other ways.
The question, of course, is what to do about it. I have unfriended people before, most recently in response to their responses back when Ferguson first happened. And there are some people who I suspect have unfriended me. And I think that’s fine. Sometimes you just can’t stomach dealing with someone’s bullshit anymore, and you cut them out.
But there’s also the option of arguing, and the question of whether that accomplishes anything. I’ve more than once seen claims that it’s useless, that it just hardens people in their existing attitudes, but I’d argue that it does accomplish something useful. No, very few people, if any, will stop being bigots because someone on Facebook called them a bigot. However, a world devoid of bigots is not really an achievable goal, at least in the short or medium term. What is potentially achievable is a world in which no form of bigotry is socially acceptable–and calling out bigotry where you see it does, in fact, contribute toward achieving that goal.

3 thoughts on “The Proverbial Bigoted Relative on Facebook

  1. Arguing probably does harden the position of whomever you argue with, but it may convince third parties who witness the exchange. Most formalized forms of debate take it as a given that neither side is going to convince the other – they are both seeking to convince the audience.

  2. As the old and new again axiom goes, “Arguing is a spectator sport.” That’s the whole point of academic debate clubs (well, in my recollection, most academic debate-team matches are actually won by whichever team is better at accusing the other team of committing logical fallacies, but that’s another story).
    Of course, there’s also this to be considered.

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